The Greatest Opportunity of All

Robert Wurtz II

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance (2 Peter 3:9 ESV).

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’ As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’” Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end” (Hebrews 3:7–14 ESV). 

Of the forty verses that contain the Greek word samaron (meaning today or temporary), nineteen are in the Lukan writings (Luke and Acts) and seven are in Hebrews. Overstating the significance of this fact is impossible. The Holy Spirit is focusing our mind on the vital truth that we are only on earth temporarily, and that opportunity for repentance is swiftly passing away. Let that sink down into your mind and heart. When you and I breathe our last breath, we will move from time into eternity, and our decision to serve God or not will be finalized eternally. 

 If there is one word that Satan and his followers hate it is the word repentance. I suggest that he has done more abuse to this word than any other. He even manages to get theologians, pastors, and teachers in on it. It was the preaching of repentance that riled the Jews into trying to kill Paul (Acts 26). It was the reason why both John the Baptist and Paul were beheaded. Satan hates repentance, and he wants you and me to hate it too. He doesn’t mind so much if preachers do a long sermon series on justification, divine healing, or the gifts of the Spirit — so long as they ignore repentance. We all know that this is true and we ought to ask ourselves why that is.

“Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before” (Acts 3:19–20 NKJV).

Repentance comes from two Greek words metanoeo (change the mind) and epistrepho (turn, return, or turn back).  The great Greek scholar A.T. Robertson defines them as to “Definitely turn to God in conduct as well as in mind.” Jesus gives His definition of repentance in Matthew 12:41 by citing the people if Nineveh. You can safely dismiss the theologians at this point and merely read the book of Jonah, and you will know what Jesus means by repentance. His opinion is the only one that matters. Note some examples of Jesus on repentance:

From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matt. 4:17). 

Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not: Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes (Matt. 11:20-21)

The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here (Matt. 12:41)

.And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15).

And they went out, and preached that men should repent (Mark 6:12). 

I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish (Luke 13:3).

I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish (Luke 13:5).

I say unto you, that there is likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance” (Luke 15:7 KJV).

The Reformers may have emphasized justification by faith, but your Bible places the emphasis empirically on repentance from sin. Justification is God dealing man’s sin so that He can deal with their Sin problem. That is, He can bring them to repentance and regeneration. It is not “the end” it is the means to an end. The reason why Paul’s stresses justification in Romans and Galatians is that Judaizers were forever trying to bring people back under the Old Covenant for salvation. Law keeping is of the flesh and is dead in the water to bring us to a right standing with God. However, this problem virtually does not exist today. Name one person that you know personally who is trying to keep the 613 Laws of the Old Covenant. We read books of the Bible with no consideration of the context and then go to seed on a topic like justification–playing right into the enemies hands. People get the impression that getting their sins forgiven is all that matters.    

While man wants the assurance of justification by faith, God wants men everywhere to repent. He no longer overlooks the ignorance of the past. Consider the peoples’ response to what Paul said to the idolaters at Mars Hill in Acts 17, “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked” (Acts 17:30–32 ESV).


They completely dismissed the topic of repentance and mocked resurrection. This strategy is how the enemy spins peoples’ minds. Moreover, he does it to theologians, pastors, and teachers as well. “Let’s argue about the resurrection and entirely forget about repentance.” Really? How convenient. Repentance in the John the Baptist and Paul sense of the word is the first step towards preparing for Heaven and its the most crucial step. Every journey begins with the first step and for a believer that has to be repentance.


Why Not Universalism?

People sometimes wonder, why do we need to repent? If God is a loving God why doesn’t He want everyone to go to heaven? This is a man-centered thought. It does not regard God’s plan or the situation as it exists in heaven. A better question is, “Should God allow Satan and his murderous angels to remain in heaven?” After all, they have no repentance and will never change. They are who they are, and their behavior will be as it is forever. No person in their right mind would suggest allowing Satan and his followers to remain in Heaven. 

It follows that we should then ask, “If God wanted to justify and retain those persons who refuse to turn from their enmity with Him and repent (come into agreement with Himself), surely he would have started with Satan–justifying him and his unholy angels.” Think about it. If God wanted to justify and save for heaven beings that hate Him, hate others, are wicked and evil, He would have just kept Satan and his fallen angels in Heaven. People behave after their father the devil, and God will not have them in heaven either. It is a hard saying, but we have to keep that clear.  

If a person does the works of the devil, they are of the devil, and they are bound for the same ultimate destiny as the devil. Justification is a measure in which God declares a person righteous with a view to their being changed into a God compatible being (if you will). It is no guarantee that a person will go to Heaven. Simply put, God is not going to have people in heaven that behave like the devil after He already cast the Devil and a third of his angels out of it. I belabor this point because so few seem to understand it. It’s common sense and Biblical at the same time. If God would’ve wanted evil and wickedness in His presence, He would’ve just kept Satan and his heavenly followers there. Why would he bring human devilry in after He has utterly rejected angelic devilry?

An Opportunity of a Life Time

Although the enemy works relentlessly to malign repentance, man is offered an opportunity to repent so long as he is alive on earth. I suggest that if people comprehended how exceedingly rare and wonderful it is that the living have a precious opportunity to repent, they would be overcome with joy. On the contrary, if they could see how utterly hopeless it is for the fallen angels and those who have already died to repent, they would weep uncontrollably.  

The writer to the Hebrews says it repeatedly, “Today if you will hear His voice” and again “while it is called today.” The emphasis is on today. In eternity there is no today. The angels who sinned have no such opportunity. The people who have died and gone into eternity have no such opportunity. You and I have the greatest blessing of all offered to us at this moment and at this time; and that opportunity and blessing it repentance. We can turn to God right now if we hear His voice. Someday that opportunity could expire and that day could be today. We have no promise of tomorrow–just today. Right now. Why not joyfully take the opportunity today that Satan and all of his followers don’t have? Moreover, why not take the opportunity today that those who have died no longer have?  

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance (2 Peter 3:9 ESV).


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